A memory garden is a wonderful tribute for a loved one who has died, whether you have lost a mother, father, son, daughter, sibling or friend. Their favourite flowers and plants can remind you of them, but it can also be a healing place for quiet contemplation after anything life throws at you.
Making a memorial garden can also help you think about your loved one and help you talk about them with other family and friends.
Where can you put a memorial garden?
You don't need a lot of space for a memorial garden. A corner of your backyard, a sunny porch or balcony, or even individual plants and garden ornaments can take on real meaning to memorialize someone you loved.
What things can you feature in a memorial garden?
You can put anything you like in a memorial garden, from your loved one's favourite flowers, or even vegetables, to an ornament made from one of their possessions, such as a watering can or suitcase.
Here are eight DIY ideas to inspire your own memorial garden.
Consider when you are most likely to spend time in your memory garden. In temperate zones, spring and summer flowering plants may be the focal point. If you have the space you could also consider early flowering bulbs, planted under trees or shrubs with foliage that looks spectacular in fall – such as the sweet maple or smokebush.
Rosemary makes a wonderful living garden memorial and is traditionally the herb of remembrance. This robust evergreen thrives across most zones, with the angustifolius variety surviving outdoors in temperatures down to 25 degrees. It grows happily in containers, which can be taken into shelter in extreme conditions.
Rosemary bursts into blue flowers in the spring, which complement those of the forget-me-not (pictured). Forget-me-nots (Zones 4 to 9) can be bought from many garden centers or sown as seeds in fall, to flower next spring in your remembrance garden.
A tree can be a long-lasting garden memorial. Living Urns and EterniTrees, available through many funeral homes, combine cremation ashes in the growing matter to bring a tree to life from seed.
Roses are wonderful remembrance garden plants for loved ones, with a host of varieties including the scarlet Loving Memory, old-fashioned Memory Bells and thornless Never Forgotten specially named with loving sentiments in mind. Pretty climbing clematis American Beauty also looks wonderful when it comes into bloom June through September.
Given the right amount of sunshine or shade, nutrients and water, most plants will thrive in containers, so don’t let space limit your imagination, when it comes to creating a remembrance garden.
Picture:Andre Glechikoff via Flickr
A chipped coffee pot, old pair of boots, shopping basket, or even a basketball, can make a unique garden planter. Little personal items from your loved one’s daily life can be lovely reminders to incorporate in your memorial garden. Outdoor paints or finishes can add a special touch and increase their longevity, while adding drainage holes where possible will keep the plants healthy and happy.
Feed the birds and butterflies
It’s always wonderful when wildlife is attracted to a garden and this can take on special significance when someone we love dies. For many people, doves are a symbol of hope, while for others, butterflies are especially meaningful.
A bird table or feeder is a practical ornamental feature, while plants will also draw hungry birds in search of insects to your remembrance garden.
Nectar-rich and beautiful blooms including hyssop, marigolds, beebalm, marguerite, flowering tobacco and passionflower are much-loved by butterflies, which also find the purple-flowering Orange Eye Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) irresistible.
If you have the right habitat nearby, you can also ‘grow your own’ butterflies for your memorial garden. Find them online from butterfly farms which specialise in varieties available for shipping and releasing in your state.
Sound and water
The sound of water can be calming and relaxing, helping to clear your mind of ‘noisy’ thoughts. Solar powered water features are available in many shapes and sizes, suitable for all sorts of memory gardens. Fountain-like pumps are suitable for ponds, while ornamental bowls and pebble beds take up little space and don’t require a constant supply of water. Grasses or bamboo, spinners or windchimes are also great memorial garden ideas, combining ornamental features with gentle sounds.
Light a candle
In the summertime, sometimes the best time to sit and quietly reflect in a remembrance garden is at the end of the day. Lighting a candle for a loved one can be a meaningful comfort and bring color when the sun goes down. Consider outdoor candle holders with decorative glass, solar powered lanterns, or string lights woven through branches or amid climbing vines and trellis.
In their name
Personalize a garden memorial bench or chair with an engraving or plaque bearing your loved one’s name, or order a personalized memorial stone or garden plaque with a loved one’s name or special sentiment. A pebble bed or bowl is another lovely remembrance garden idea. Invite visitors to add their own pebbles in tribute, adding to your memorial garden.
Plants and features that evoke memories are an important part of special memory gardens, while some people also choose to make their loved one’s remains a focal point of a garden memorial. If it is legal to do so in your state, you might consider scattering their ashes into a planting area, where a special tree or a rose is to grow.
Another attractive memory garden idea is to consider an ornamental cremation urn which has been specially designed for display outdoors.
Ornamental bird baths and stone benches are also a charming way to remember loved ones, incorporating a niche in the plinth to accommodate cremation ashes.
Fly the flag
If your loved one was a services veteran, you may wish to honor their memory by making the American Flag a focal point of your memorial garden ideas. Military.com has a great user-friendly guide to U.S. flag etiquette dos and don’ts to consider, which you may find helpful.
- Check out some more ideas about funeral flowers and arrangements for your loved one.